Friday, June 15, 2012

Robert Lieberman's THE TORTURED per-fectly describes the audience experience.

The kind of movie they call "torture porn," THE TORTURED isn't actually good enough to rate as "porn." It might serve best as a kind of canary-in-the-coal-mine: If the guy (or gal) you're watching this with gets at all aroused by the movie, head for the hills--for both artistic and safety reasons. Directed by Robert Lieberman (often an artisan for Disney and shown below) and written by the Czechoslovakian-born Marek Posival (though it was filmed in Canada, the movie does have a grungy Eastern European feel), it tells the tale of a husband and wife who, after their little boy is kidnapped and murdered and the murderer not given the kind of justice they deem correct, decide to kidnap that felon and torture him to death. Which they do. Almost.

There is one surprise in the movie, and it is indeed a big one, though in retrospect, it doesn't make much sense; nor does some of the other plotting and behavior shown. The screenplay is rife with characters who need to explain what they're feeling and doing -- and why -- which comes across as far too expository. And because the movie was made two years ago and is only now being foisted upon us, at a time in which the country's most famous missing-child case since the Lindbergh baby has been back in the news for months, only makes the movie more difficult to watch, while simultaneously calling attention to the motives behind the release of a film this unnecessary and crummy.

The biggest credibilty problem for the film is that, once the parents decide on their course of action, everything seems too easy. Up to this point (the kidnapping itself is filmed skillfully), the movie maintains a certain force and thrust, with performances at least as good as the script allows them to be. Mom (Erika Christensen) and Dad (Jesse Metcalfe) are hot, young actors who get to emote and undress enough to please their fans (they're shown above, in the de rigueur morgue scene with dead son, and below, with their own victim; and that's Ms Christensen in the bath, at bottom).

There's little reason to say more about this movie, which has a small but probably ever-committed audience, who knows what it wants and will seek out movies such as this one to satisfy. If you are going for torture films, however, a much better one in every way -- also Canadian -- can be found in Seven Days.

Meanwhile, The Tortured (unrated, from IFC FIlms) opens (barely) at one theater here in NYC (the IFC Center) but for a single midnight screening. Better check the theater schedule, however, because some days it does not appear to play at all, and others -- this coming Tuesday, for instance -- it shows once, and only in the afternoon....

The photos above are from the film itself, 
except for that of Mr. Lieberman, 
which comes courtesy of Getty Images.

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